July 4th, or Independence Day, marks the historic date in 1776 when the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, and the colonies became independent from Great Britain. The nation’s founding principles included the idea that all people are created equal and have fundamental rights, promising liberty and equality for all. 

Is 2023 a turning point for employers in fulfilling those values in the workplace through pay equity and creating inclusive cultures? 

American history: From John Locke to present day

The “revolutionary generation” was influenced by the 17th Century English philosopher John Locke. Locke pioneered ideas which included the “right to revolution”, ideas which would prove to be a key factor in American history and the ideologies behind the revolution, the US Constitution, the American Bill of Rights, and Independence Day itself.  

On June 28th, 1870, Independence Day was declared a national holiday by Congress, and in 1941 it became a paid holiday for all federal employees. Today it remains a vital symbol of liberty and equality for the American people, and the most important secular event on the American calendar. 

Liberty and equality is more than an abstract idea

The struggle for true liberty and equality in American history demonstrates how we have grappled with living out those founding principles. 

In 1859, enslaved African Americans were urged to celebrate Independence Day despite the acknowledged inconsistencies, and it would not be until 1865 that all enslaved Americans were liberated. It was over a century and a half before Juneteenth was declared a federal holiday, over four decades after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day became a holiday in 1983.

Liberty and equality in a society must be about more than words. They must be apparent in the way we live and work.  As employers, they must emerge from our core values to shape inclusive cultures and underpin every aspect of the working environment and the employee experience. 

Independence Day calls us to reexamine those values in our own organizations. 

Shaping inclusive cultures

Taking steps towards equality in the workplace, and living out the core values symbolized by Independence Day, begins by creating inclusive cultures. 

Research from Deloitte found the following:

  • 80% of employees believe that an inclusive culture is important in choosing an employer
  • 39% would leave their current role to work for a more inclusive organization
  • Nearly a quarter have already left their jobs due to the lack of inclusion  

Celebrating Independence Day as a national holiday unites the whole country around core values of equality and liberty, yet we still have some way to go to achieve it for all: 

  • Juneteenth reminds us of the need for true inclusion, and highlights the pay gap for people of color. While Juneteenth celebrates freedom, the journey to equality is still ongoing.
  • Raising awareness of and celebrating different cultural heritages such as Caribbean Heritage month can help to change perceptions. Similarly, Equal Pay Awareness Day reminds us of the challenges still facing our LGBTQIA+ community both in the workplace and wider society. 

Creating equality in the workplace

On Equal Pay Day this year, President Biden stated:

“… we need to not only crack down on discrimination but also address the systemic issues behind the pay gap.” 

On the 60th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act 1963, he also urged congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act which was reintroduced in March 2023. If passed, this law will:

  • Increase pay transparency for workers
  • Strengthen protections to fight discrimination
  • Help to level the playing field for women and people of color 

While Equal Pay Day took place on March 14th, 2023, for black women, Equal Pay Day is September 21st, 2023. International Equal Pay Day, organized by the Equal Pay International Coalition takes place on September 18th

Meanwhile, the gender pay gap stands at 18% in the US and has not significantly shifted in two decades. Resistance to national pay transparency legislation, and the PayCheck Fairness Act will hinder further progress. That legislation falls short of the EU Pay Transparency Act, however, which impacts US employers operating in EU member states. 

Independence Day: A time for reflection

Our national holiday offers a time for all of us to collectively pause, reflect and celebrate our achievements, while acknowledging there is still much to be done. In the area of pay equity, significant progress has been made in 2023, a year which may yet prove to be a turning point.

At Trusaic, we are committed to creating a better working world for all, and to enabling employers to create inclusive cultures and equality in the workplace. We do this by collaborating with our clients to achieve pay equity and foster workplace diversity and inclusion. 

We consider pay equity to be a human right and critical to living out the reality of our nation’s founding principles. 

All employers can commit to the following steps to create a more inclusive culture: 

Ensure wage and hour compliance: Wage and hour laws are regulated at a federal level by the Fair Labor Standards Act 1938 (FLSA), also known as the federal Wage and Hour Law. Wage and hour compliance is the responsibility of employers, and legislation is set by federal, state, and local wage and hour laws. Wage and hour regulations can also be set by unions. Employer compliance can be time consuming due to complex federal and state regulations. 

Commit to DEI: A commitment to DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) embraces core values of equality and freedom and is inseparable from pay equity. Measuring and monitoring the effectiveness of DEI initiatives is vital for organizations committed to creating inclusive cultures. 

Comply with pay equity laws: Working with Trusaic can help you to stay on top of ever changing pay equity legislation which affects your organization, and ensure compliance. Your first step is to carry out a pay equity audit. Our state-of-the-art pay equity software, PayParity®, helps to solve HR’s most complex challenges around people, data, and compliance.

Commit to an inclusive culture. Talk to one of our pay equity experts.

Download: Trusaic and HBR Research Report